It came to my attention that an acquaintance passed away recently. As someone who was only casually acquainted, I felt sad about this loss. This person was a respected member of the community, but they and I shared no depth of relationship.
As such, as I said, I felt a sadness. But I would be disingenuous if I termed it grief. Who knows? Maybe I’m broken; after all, “no man is an island,” as Donne wrote all those years ago…
Contrast this with the response of another acquaintance, who knew the deceased very well, was indeed friends with this person: they grieved. This wasn’t merely an “oh, that’s sad” reaction, but honest tears welling up from a wonded soul, aching from the loss.
Because they knew the departed.
Even so, and the thing which floored me, was this person seemed full of self-reproach for grieving a very real loss. For not being able to keep a kid on their emotions. They were almost ashamed of the tears which came, and hoped to do better in keeping their feelings in check.
Why is the Western world thus? Why do we feel this need to be in control–to control how we are perceived? Anguish and grief in light of a very real loss is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, it’s something which makes us human. To which I would add, despite knowing the outcome, in the shortest (yet arguably most poignant) verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.”
He cried because his friend, Lazarus, felt the sting of death. He cried, despite knowing He would shortly raise him from the dead. It didn’t matter; Jesus grieved.
And if He is at all our example, we would do well to follow it. When we suffer losses, we should likewise grieve–not put a lid on it, pretend it didn’t hurt, keep it under control, berate ourselves… For Christ cried, there is certainly no shame in our tears.
Ah! But we in the West don’t like to feel uncomfortable, or make others feel any discomfiture, do we? It seems the rational West all too often forgets the words of Pascal:
“The heart has its reasons that reason knows not of.”
Reason–rationality–has its place. But we are not merely creatures of cold rationality. We are more: spirit, soul, and body. Mind, will, and emotions. These are meant to work in harmony. Any one exalted, or suppressed, at the expense of the others leads to a life out of balance.
Like the American system of government, these parts of our beings are supposed to provide checks and balances to the others. Feelings don’t necessarily set the course, but they can confirm, or contradict, it. And oftentimes, the most rational course of action isn’t necessarily the most loving. There are things that make sense on paper, but are absolutely terrible to implement.
Like controlling one’s emotions in the face of terrible loss. There is a cost to the soul. Listen, being human means that we are mish-mashed pile of walking, talking contradictions. Hybrid creatures–of earth, and of heaven. It means accepting that we don’t understand ourselves.
It means giving ourselves permission to not be okay. (Kids instinctively know how to do this, until life drives it out of them).
It’s okay to not be okay. To not have it all together. And sometimes that means sitting, undistracted, in discomfort. In that which makes uncomfortable.
Sometimes, the best thing for the soul is a big, ugly cry.
What do you think? Jesus had no problem displaying His emotions–joy, sadness, anger–for all the world to see.
So why do we?